Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Adventures in Local Journalism

Journalism school isn’t required. Spelling is a plus, but not required. Somewhere among the jumbled sentence structure and changing tenses is the truth. Maybe.

Sometimes my local paper (circulation less than 10,000) makes me laugh or just pisses me off. But rarely does a single story do both.

This particular story is about a young fella who went to a party and ended up falling off a bridge. He doesn’t remember any of it. No one does. It happened. It’s tragic and the newspaper’s assistant editor managed to butcher the story. Some unedited quotes from this less than stellar piece of journalism:

“Miniard’s body was reportedly found underneath the bridge in that hamlet.”

“Miniard’s body!?” The dude isn’t dead. He is still in his body. His body wasn’t found, he was. And yep, no one around here has ever read Hamlet, but we live in quaint enough gatherings of houses that we have actual hamlets.

Quoting the boys mother: “He had a bleed on the brain.”

Is this what the mother actually said or is this poor spelling? Even if the mother said this I don’t think it would be a unethical to help her out a little so she doesn’t look like an idiot. Or better yet, to avoid the ethics question, leave it out altogether.

In additions to his bleed on the brain, “He had lots of trauma to the left side of his head, his left arm was broken, the left wing on his pelvis snapped and a couple of ribs were broken. There was a break/fracture to the lower back and his spleen and pancreas were severed. That around the left eye was broken, and he had a head injury in his left temperal and peripheral lobe. He had no other bruises or scratches."

It pains me not to correct the above paragraph and, in fact, I have double checked my duplication to ensure that it appears exactly as written. Despite the incomplete sentences and bad spellings, this passage is completely ridiculous from a logic stand point. Come on, basically this guy just broke his entire body. We know because you went to great efforts to tell us. Do you really need to end the paragraph with “He had no other bruises or scratches.”?

“At one point he had 37 people in the waiting room (which just happens to be a few more than the population of the hamlet). His ex-girlfriends and their boyfriends were there.”

Ex-girlfriends? This cracks me up and makes up for all of the other irksome nonsense in the story.

This kind of thing does not regularly happen in our area. Here this journalist is sitting on top of the biggest story since the Great Corn Blight of ’84 and she has completely and utterly screwed the pooch and everything else that is bad to screw.

But you can bet that I’ll pick up the paper again today looking for more things to make me laugh and more things to piss me off. Because the truth is, I enjoy both.

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